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Inshore Lifeboat Centre to Mark RNLI's 200th Birthday

This year marks the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s 200th anniversary – and to celebrate, events will go on all year.

The RNLI traces its origins back to 1824, when Sir William Hillary witnessed a shipwreck off the Isle of Man and recognised the need for a dedicated lifeboat service. He campaigned tirelessly, advocating for a national organisation to provide lifeboats and trained crews to rescue those in peril at sea. In 1824, the first lifeboat station was established at Formby, and the RNLI was officially founded. Since then, it has grown into a renowned charity, with over 200 stations across the UK and Ireland, saving countless lives through its courageous volunteer crews and innovative lifesaving equipment.

The Inshore Lifeboat Centre, located in East Cowes, was the RNLI's first purpose-built factory and now builds all of the RNLI's inshore lifeboats, except for the River Thames-based e-class lifeboats.

The RNLI has been using Cowes shipyards since 1913 when SE Saunders was contracted to build a number of pulling and sailing lifeboats.

The ILC (Cowes base) was used in 1930 as a stores and offices for overseers, looking after yards such as JS White, Groves and Gutteridge, and William Osborne at Littlehampton and a timber store. Inflatables were introduced in 1963.

ILC builds six or seven B-class Atlantic Lifeboats per year at a cost of £304,000 each and 12 to 14 D-class IB1 lifeboats per year at a cost of £100,000 each. ILC also refits 17 to 18 B-class and 35 D-class lifeboats each year. Operating costs for the ILC site are approximately £3.6million per year.

Other work includes manufacture of watertight doors for All-weather Life Boats, Octagon doors for launching vehicles, Including Softrak refit, Land rovers Cutting fibreglass kits for ALB hull structure on the CNC machine, window refurbishments for ALB refits, boat covers and component covers for ILBs and ALBs. Inversion proofing Yamaha 115 outboards and refurbishing all types of outboard engines, R&D work plus making components for all ILBs for coastal spares too. Occasionally the build of lifeboats for other external organisations. The East Cowes site also has a Visitor Heritage centre for the Island – and hosts naming ceremonies for relief boats.

ILC employs just under 70 RNLI staff, made up of multi-skilled trades people including Boatbuilders, Solutionists, Electricians, Mechanics/Fitters and Painters. With supporting staff in the office and stores/warehouse and a few managers.

The RNLI also has up to five modern apprentices. With a number of retired public volunteers helping with shopfloor site tours.

The Making of the Linking event Scroll Carry Case

This year, a special scroll will pass through every lifeboat station, being signed by one volunteer, to mark the 200th anniversary.

East Cowes Inshore Lifeboat Centre staff and apprentices offered to make the special carry case for the RNLI200 Linking event.

Led by Janine Groves at ILC, they decided to make one from scratch.

Designing and making a plug, mould then mouldings from materials used to make the Atlantic Hull, and in RNLI orange.

They used stainless steel fittings and foam shaped inserts to hold the scroll and the spindle heads. The spindle heads or finials, were made by David Martin, a boatbuilder at the ALC using salvaged pine from an old flagpole that has come from Ramsey Lifeboat Station on the Isle of Man, where Sir William Hillary lived.

Harvey Ellison (ILC Apprentice ) and Sam Ticehurst (ILC Boatbuilder), have between them, with help from other ILC staff members, designed and built the carry case, that will carry the scroll, and writing base support made of composite material, the pens and book and audio system.

The case was used on 4th March to start its journey from Westminster to every RNLI community in the UK and Ireland. Popping back at ILC on 21st March for some local volunteers to sign the scroll.


During the RNLI’s Bicentenary Year, here are some key dates of notable events:

Saturday 11th May

Riverfest Festival, Newport Quay 10.00 – 4.00pm

Yarmouth Gala Ball – Royal Solent celebrating RNLI 200th and Yarmouth 100th centenaries

Sunday 19th May

International Lifeboat Festival, Poole

Monday 20th May

RHS Chelsea Flower Show (RNLI Bicentenary Rose)

Friday 24th May (details TBC)

Churches Together East Cowes Service

Celebration Dinner, Classic Boat Museum, Cowes ILC

Saturday 25th May

East Cowes Town Event: 200 years of boatbuilding

Sunday 26th May

Open Day, Inshore Lifeboat Centre, East Cowes

Saturday 15th June

Round the Island Race (RNLI is chosen charity)

Saturday 13th/Sunday 14th July

County Show

Thursday 25th July

International Drowning Prevention Day

Sunday 28th August

Cowes Week Regatta Service – Holy Trinity Church – RNLI theme

Saturday 27th July – Friday 2nd August

Cowes Week (RNLI is joint charity)

Thursday 1st August

One Crew Event at 18.24hrs

Thursday 5th – Sunday 13th October

“Joey’s Walk” (Island Walking Festival – date TBC)
Facebook: RNLI Inshore Lifeboat Centre
Tel: 01983 292521


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